Transcript: Rick Pitino Previews Sunday’s Game Against Pittsburgh

Photo: Tim Haag/
Photo: Tim Haag/

Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen after a loss is a lot of time off between games. It feels like the Cards haven’t played in a month. They will finally hit the court again on Sunday at 4 p.m. when they take on the Pittsburgh Panthers on the road. The game will be on CBS.

Rick Pitino talked about the game at his press conference on Friday afternoon. Here is what he had to say.

Opening statement:

“As you all know, Pitt’s had a great winning record at home, nearly 88 percent, and certainly, they have a great home court with their student body. It’s always been a tough place to play, and we’re looking forward to it. Obviously it’s a nationally televised game, and I know our players are fired up about it.”

On U of L historically playing well at Pitt:

“I think with certain teams, but it’s not this team.”

On why the team is bringing back the rally beards:

“A loss. Just a loss. It’s a rallying beard to try to get away from a loss.”

Is everyone on the team on board again?

“I don’t know. I haven’t taken a poll yet.”

Thoughts on the film review of the Duke game:

“The only thing I really disliked is we let (Jahlil) Okafor get the ball where he wanted to get it. That’s something that we worked hard on, and I’m disappointed that we allowed him catch the ball where he could easily score. … Mangok (Mathiang) just let him have the ball. It was just poor defense. He may have been fatigued from him having 50 pounds on him and banging on him.”

On working on zone offense:

“Our zone offense is fine. We just missed shots (against Duke). We did take eight challenged shots in the game, which is three too many, and we were 0 for 8. We’re shooting about 8-10 percent on challenged shots on the season, so we’re trying to stay away from those. We had great looks and didn’t put the ball in the basket.”

On the long week with no midweek game:

“There was nothing different. We took two days off because we have to, according to the rules, because of the prior week and the week coming up. We did some recruiting, and we practiced the two days after the Duke game, then took two days off, and now we’re getting three to get ready for Pitt.”

On the players saying they feel more comfortable shooting on the road than home:

“I think that’s just an excuse, and excuses are a sign of weakness.”

On rectifying jump shooting:

“We just keep working on it. It’s like anything else. This team I equate to two years ago, same shooting percentage, like 42-plus (percent), 43 percent. It wasn’t a great shooting team. We (don’t) have a guy who shoots it as well as Kyle Kuric or even Russ Smith for that matter. It’s just not a great shooting team. They’re more of an athletic team, and the fact that we haven’t gotten out on the break more has (mattered). This is the fewest amount of fast breaks we’ve had in 10 years. So that being said, we haven’t been able to press as much because we don’t get the press on that much. So we’re going to try to do a few different things to enable us to shoot a better percentage. But it’s not a great shooting team. I’ve told you that from Day 1. I told you from Day 1 this team wasn’t as good as the last three years. I told you from Day 1 we’re going to have a lot of bumps in the road, and right now, it’s been surprisingly good at 15-3.”

On getting Wayne Blackshear going after Duke game (seven points, four rebounds vs. Duke):

“(To reporter): You didn’t like his game last week? (Reporter says game was “a little quiet.”) I think Wayne is what he is. He’s having a good year, not having a great year, having a good year. We’re all having a good year. I think Wayne, the more paint touches he gets, the better off he is and the less he relies on his jump shot, the better he is. I think his jump shot is good; it’s fine.”

On if there’s a different message for the road:

“We were the best road team in the Big East since we joined the Big East and the AAC, so I don’t think we pay too much attention to road or home. I just think we’ve got to do a few things to help us offensively, which we already have. … Pitt’s a tough place to play. Every road game is tough. We don’t put any more stock into playing at home as we do on the road. I feel personally that the road is a bigger challenge, and you’ve got to be ready for a very difficult crowd to go against. An example, if you watched Chris Collins (of Northwestern) last night (against Ohio State), on that goal-tending call, that was one of the greatest hops of all time that I’ve seen in a while because he’s young. But he was probably right on the call. You look at the last game against Duke, Chris Jones is immediately gone to the bench; our point guard’s gone. Both calls were bad calls. One was a block-out that the offensive player got any way – so it was irrelevant – and the other he just stole the ball out of the guy’s hands and he got two fouls and was going to the bench. So you know, referees sometimes can dictate what happens in a basketball game. You don’t expect that at home as much as you do on the road with the crowd going crazy, it may influence a referee’s call. But Chris Jones sat the whole half with two calls that never should have been called. So sometimes referees, and you see in the NFL at the end of certain games, they advance in the playoffs because of calls, but you can’t do anything about those things. We had to play that half without our point guard. For no rhyme or reason should we have done that. It’s just the breaks of the games sometimes. They go against you.”

On getting more touches in the paint:

“So far Terry has been the only true paint toucher. We’re working on it with Wayne. Montrezl didn’t post up enough in that game, but you know, zones have a lot to do with that as well, and he gets a lot of attention. But Montrezl is not on the break as much because our team is not on the break as much. He gets a lot of points on the break from outrunning people and dunking on them, and he hasn’t had that opportunity this year as much.”

On Harrell’s offensive approach:

“I think he needs to shoot more 16-footers than 22-footers. I thought he played very well against Duke, in terms of getting on the backboard. He was much more active against Duke than he was (against) North Carolina.”

On if the team needs more paint touches to get better on offense:

“I think paint touches have a lot to do with it. We shoot nearly 80 percent on the fast break and we got seven times (against Duke). There’s a lot of slow basketball in the ACC. You saw a team last night that had, what, 18 at halftime. There’s a lot of slow basketball. Then there’s North Carolina and N.C. State that play very fast. Sometimes you can’t do a lot whole lot about it.”

On Pitt traditionally being a very physical team:

“Same thing. They rebound great. They’re very good defensively. They’re very active with their hands. Pitt doesn’t change a whole lot. They built their reputation on solid fundamentals, great defense, great rebounding, toughness. They’re doing it once again.”

“College basketball, the landscape when you watch games and you see games, you look out there and you say to yourself, ‘How did that happen or how did this happen?’ A lot of it is great runs and bad runs. Seton Hall gets on a great run and they’re in the top 25–obviously, I root for them and then they lose two.”

“It’s a game of runs based on the schedule sometimes. You don’t know when that’s going to hit you, especially in a conference like ours. We still have to play at Pitt, then we go at Boston College, at Miami. We still have to play Virginia twice, North Carolina (at) home. We’ve got a tough road ahead. Should be a lot of fun.”

On how Shaqquan Aaron is progressing with more games under his belt:

“I don’t know. I don’t think Shaqquan has really been making a dramatic change in what we do or not do. I think our freshmen are just all learning. None of them are physically ready except Chinanu and he’s not mentally ready at times. I think this freshman class, they’re all going to be good but they’ve been very average, to say the least, this year. They’ve been a very average class. I don’t think he’s made a very large impact.”

“I think Chinanu has the potential to make an impact on our team. He hasn’t shown it yet; he did a little bit earlier on in the season but that wasn’t against this type of competition.”

On if the bench players are nervous:

“Do you have somebody in particular that you’re talking about?”

Just in general:

“I don’t see that. I don’t see nervousness.”

“Quentin Snider hasn’t scored a point in the ACC but he’s taken all good shots, made all good moves. I think he’s playing the best of the freshman right now but it doesn’t show in terms of statistical stuff. But it shows in terms of practice.”

On if there is a shadow of success that comes with the last three seasons, even though record is now 15-3:

“It’s normal. I bet you if you polled the fans right now that they’re probably not ecstatic that they’re 15-3 but that’s a compliment to what has been done the last three years. I don’t take that as a negative; I take that as a compliment. We’ve have the most wins in college basketball. Right now, they’re used to two Final Fours. They’re used to a Sweet 16, conference championships and we’re in seventh-place. So it’s natural because of the all the success.”

“But you do have a period where you must reload, rebuild, improve, teach new people the culture that you’ve built the last three years, and that’s what we’re going through. Nobody can stay away from that. You’re always going to have that period and we’re going through that now with six new players. But I’m not disappointed.”

“Fortunately, I’m one of the few guys in the business that pays no attention to any of you. And I say that in a very complimentary way because I always want to treat professionals such as yourself with great respect. If you concern yourself with what people say you’ll lose your professionalism, so I try to always stay professional.”

“At 15-3, I’m ecstatic. With a great win over Indiana in the Garden. With a great win over Western Kentucky without Montrezl Harrell. With a great win over Ohio State playing outstanding basketball. The only two really poor games we’ve played have been Kentucky and Duke, where we did not play good offense. But at times you’ve got to give credit to your opponent. I think their defense had a lot to do with how we played offense.”

“And then we’re going to play a lot of other good teams like Miami, Virginia and N.C. State. It’s going to be a challenging schedule. Like I said, we’ve got a lot of bumps that lie ahead. But this team is getting better and that’s what I look for, improvement. They’re getting better. At all phases of the game, they’re getting better. It’s just they’re taking baby steps.”

On if a player has ever stepped back from his captaincy the way Harrell did:

“I’ve had that happen before. It’s really not a big deal. If it was a big deal, I would have announced it. It really wasn’t a big deal; you all made it be a big deal. And, to be honest with you, he made it a big deal.”

“Are these deflated balls a big deal or is the Super Bowl a big deal? After awhile you’re going to get a little tired of the deflated balls.”

“This was absolutely nothing. He should not have mentioned it. Why he did it, I don’t know, because he is the leader of the team. He suggested it. I don’t even know why he brought it up. So it’s not a big deal. It really isn’t. If it was I would have mentioned it to you, but it’s not.”

On Blackshear’s approach as a captain:

“Quiet. Reserved. Like Montrezl said, it’s good cop, bad cop. That’s what it is. Montrezl is the hammer. Wayne is the guy who (says) ‘keep your head up. Don’t worry, you’ll get it.'”

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